POWERMAN 5000 Frontman Discusses New Album, Absence Of Spacesuits

March 27, 2003

POWERMAN 5000's forthcoming album, "Transform", will include a bonus Enhanced CD portion containing videos for the tracks "Free" and "Action", as well as other undisclosed extras.

"Transform", due on May 20 through DreamWorks Records, is the fourth album from the platinum Los Angeles-based quintet. Its arrival finds frontman Spider One characteristically reflective, in this case about mass culture and its impact on him and his audience.

"What I've been noticing lately," Spider explained, "is how the culture dictates to people, especially to kids. It tells them who they are, or worse, who they should be. But it's a bullshit, manufactured version of who they are, created by advertisements — you know, 'Become a soda commercial.' It's just ridiculous."

Still, "Transform" isn't simply another call to fight the power. Spider clarifies: "What I'm saying is: We're all fucked. There's a song on the album called 'A Theme To A Fake Revolution' that refers to 'a battle won and lost with confusion.' Really, your only chance at a defense against all this is to create confusion. Confuse the powers that want to co-opt who you are. If they can't understand who you are, they can't steal your identity."

The notion of transformation also has another meaning for PM5K. Spider acknowledges: "On the surface, the title is also a reference to the new members of the band." That would be bassist Siggy Siursen and drummer Adrian Ost, whose introduction has effected a sonic as well as physical transformation of POWERMAN 5000.

"One thing I said to everybody was, 'Throw the rules out,' " Spider said of the band's decision to scrap the original follow-up to 1999's "Tonight the Stars Revolt!", the never-released "Anyone For Doomsday?". "'Forget what you think this band should be forget what you think our fans expect. Just follow your instincts."'

Recalling what came next, he adds with a laugh: "Shortly after I made that statement, two original members ­ Al and Dorian ­ quit. I don't know if the freedom to do whatever scared them or what, but they decided to bail. And that made the stakes even higher."

"Transform" is essentially a return to the band's roots, one that Spider realizes may raise a few eyebrows. He can't help but see the humor in the little image problem he's created for himself, remarking: "I'm just waiting for people to say, 'Wait a minute ­ weren't you the guy in the spacesuit two years ago?"'

His response? "Yeah, I was the guy in the spacesuit. But a lot of the messages we were putting out there when I was wearing the suit are the same one's we're talking about today. I mean, I guess it's stupid for me to try and explain that 'When Worlds Collide' was not about rocket ships — it's actually about class structure and cultural conventions. But the great science fiction has always been social commentary, and that's what we've tried to tap into."

The following are Spider One's comments on the individual songs making up PM5K's new album, "Transform":

"Assess The Mess": Adam 12's father is a well-known author, John A. Williams, who wrote a lot about the black experience in America. Adam asked his dad to record this one poem he wrote called "Assess The Mess". Adam brought it back and played it for me, and it was absolutely perfect to set the record up.

"Theme To A Fake Revolution": There's a reference in this song to "a battle won and lost with confusion." Your only defense against the culture imposing its definition on you is confusion. Be something you're not ­ confuse the powers that want to co-opt who you are. If they can't understand who you are, then they can't steal your identity. The line, "Make no mistake, there is no solution," is about not taking a stand.

"Free": This was kind of a breakthrough for me. In the past, my lyrics have been sort of abstract, almost afraid to commit to a simple premise. I always felt like I wasn't trying hard enough if I did that. So with this, it was nice to have a chorus that was so simple in its concept: "Living so free is a tragedy/ When you can't be what you want to be." The bridge in the song, when it breaks down, is my tribute to [THE CLASH's] Joe Strummer — it has that rallying-the-troops kind of vibe.

"Action": "Action" is a call to arms. People have become so complacent about whatever's going on around them. And I'm not even talking about big issues ­ I'm not even talking politics I'm just talking life. It seems like no one cares about anything, that nothing's important. So this song is a wake-up call, basically. There's a line that says, "You live your life like some kind of actor." We're just pretending, you know?

"That's Entertainment": This is a big, dumb song about the music industry. And because we tailored it to be a little dance-y, it's mocking the industry in its very style. Of course, manufactured pop stars are an easy target and, to be honest, I've never had an issue with that because I think there should always be music for nine-year-old girls. My problem came when all of a sudden that type of music became legitimate entertainment for the rest of us. It just drives me crazy when people start talking about N' SYNC and Britney Spears as "artists." That's why that line in the songs says, "You write the songs, I'll lip-sync 'em on tour." The line, "Let's see who's the biggest whore," was actually inspired by Christina Aguilera's "Dirty" video. When I saw it, it became clear that it's all about whoring yourself out on any level possible — and here's a girl who can actually sing! But they're entertainers, they're bred from birth to entertain — dance classes, voice classes, acting classes. If it weren't music, it would be toothpaste commercials or soap operas, so the music aspect can't be any more important than the rest of it. In my case, I bought a bass for $15 when I was 13 years old and learned how to put two notes together, but it became very important to me.

"A Is For Apathy": "A Is For Apathy" says, "I want to be the richest American" and "I want to live out on the street." But since the song is written from an apathetic point of view, it doesn't matter which of those options you get. My favorite line is, "So many reasons to just do nothing." That just sums it up. And we all suffer from that.

"Transform": This is the one that ended up best representing the record, which is why I chose "Transform" for the title. The chorus gives it away: "You won't last that long/You might as well transform," which is basically saying that your window of opportunity opens and closes really fast. Whether you're talking about your life from birth to death, or a certain moment in your life, the fact is, it won't last long. So you've got to seize that moment to try and do something.

"Top Of The World": It's such an old expression, and there have been so many songs called "Top Of The World", from THE CARPENTERS to CHEAP TRICK. But it hit me one day — what the hell is on the top of the world? And the final line of this song, which is probably one of the most cynical moments on the record, is, "What's on top of the world when you get there, and who's selling it to me?" Again, it's this manufactured moment that everyone strives to get to, and it may not be anything like what you think it is. This is a big, noisy rock song. I suspect it's going to be one of the highlights of the live show because it's such an aggressive song to play.

"Song About Nuthin' ": Way back, before POWERMAN even existed, when I was on this solo, quasi-rapper thing, I had a song called "Song About Nothing". The original song was about a whole bunch of issues, saying, "I could have written a song about this," or "I could have wrote a song about that." And by saying you could have, you actually are. But then the chorus was: "This is a song about nothing." That's the idea behind this version, too. It is actually about some things ­ we're just saying it's not. The line, "Your kids will burn red hot like the Fourth Of July," was inspired loosely by the David Bowie song "Oh! You Pretty Things". I think that was a song to parents, in a way saying, "You don't know what your kids are about — you don't know what they're doing."

"Stereotype": A lot of times I'll end up writing a verse for one song that will end up making more sense with the chorus from another song. "Stereotype" is full of that. It was this weird song that morphed over time, combining elements from different songs, but it ended up being its own thing. It falls in line with the general message of the record, the whole thing of following something that maybe you shouldn't be following, or that maybe you shouldn't be following anything at all.

"I Knew It": The opening line — "The opposite of bravery has always been conformity" — is one of my favorite lyrics on the record. It's actually pretty self-explanatory, but it's funny because you would never equate being nonconformist with being brave. Usually, it's just, "You're a weirdo," or "You don't fit in." But to make a conscious effort to go against what's popular, or where you're supposed to be at, is really a pretty brave thing. A lot of time, we think about these things in terms of teenagers or a high school mentality, but it's not just that — you can apply it no matter how old you are, or whatever scenario you're in.

"Hey, That's Right!" : This is my version of Elvis Costello's "Radio Radio". You know, "Ten songs in a row, and this is all you should know/ I really hope I can become one of them/ Fix it up like a hit, in stereo make it fit/ But can you really tell one from the other?" It's about that frustrating feeling you get when you're in a band and you're really trying to do something, but you know your livelihood and the chance of your message getting across comes down to the whims of a handful of people. It's the sister song to "That's Entertainment", another music industry commentary.

"The Shape Of Things To Come": For the longest time I didn't know if I wanted to include this song on the album, because on some level I felt it didn't make sense with the rest of the record — it almost seems to go with something else. So the presence of this song here is saying, "It's the end of the record, but it's really the beginning of something else."

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